Blaz0ej S0trba, «hn#$w#$ of the Canticle», Vol. 85 (2004) 475-502
The term hn#$w#$ is revisited
primarily in the Canticle of Solomon. The most ancient translation –– "lily" ––
of this flower though questioned in recent decades is still widely used. The
LXX’s rendering kri/non is examined and found as the
best translation for the lexeme N#$w#$ –– meaning
"lotus" –– being an Egyptian loan word. This translation fits to the OT
references better than "lily". The textual employment of
hn#$w#$ in the poetry of the Canticle is a chief and commanding proof for
"lotus". The "lily" translation for both hn#$w#$
and kri/non for the majority of the OT cases is seen
as incorrect since it does not pay due attention to the literary and historical
context of the Canticle.
of the Canticle 501
The word krivnon of the LXX had for the Early Church the same
meaning as the krinon of the NT.
In all probability, the redactors of the Torah did not favour this
â€œHebrewâ€ term hnvwv and therefore they omitted it as demonstrated by
the corresponding LXX texts with krivnon. This opposing tendency
towards the Egyptian influence could probably be due to the fact that
they perceived the link between hnvwv meaning â€œlotusâ€ and Egypt and
therefore felt it necessary to dissociate from this particular term and
substitute it with a more general Hebrew term jr"p, â€œflowerâ€.
In this context, I think that the narrative of Sus can be seen as a
kind of rehabilitation (97) of the flower hnvwv which the Greek only
phonetically transcribed susanna. This tendency to present the use of
hnvwv as not opposing the Torah would be established at the start of the
story. Susanna was brought up â€œaccording to the law of Mosesâ€ (SusTh
3). The name of the young man Daniel better than any other name
conveys the fact that he is a carrier of Godâ€™s judgment when the two
appointed judges (without names) failed to be so. Far more important
is the name of the person accused, sentenced and justly freed â€“
Susanna. It is not of course her striking beauty which saved her, but
her innocence which was brought to light by the judgment â€œof
The narrative 1 Kings 7 shows that the use of hnvwv matches the
use of the lotus-shape in Egyptian sacral architecture.
The final prophecy of Hosea illustrates remarkable interest in the
love of God for Israel. The metaphor for the answer of Israel to God
employs the flower hnvwv which more than any other flower is suitable
to represent the reciprocal love relationship. The love of Israel has
been awakened by the love of God. At the same time, such a love shall
flourish in a way that Israel will be attractive as hnvwv. She awakens
the love of God.
In Egyptian culture, the lotus was associated with life-awaking
(97) I am not excluding the other interpretations, but rather I am pointing out
that the link between the name and the high moral profile of the same woman is
done purposely. For only some of many studies, see J.A. GLANCY, â€œThe Accused:
Susanna and her Readersâ€, JSOT 58 (1993) 103-116; K. KOENEN, â€œVon der
todesmutigen Susanna zum begabten Daniel. Zur Ãœberlieferungsgeschichte der
Susanna-ErzÃ¤hlungâ€, ThZ 54 (1998) 1-13 with further literature.
(98) Here begins another long history linking thus â€œlilyâ€ with purity and
chastity in Christianity. Through the misunderstanding of hnvwv as krivnon â€”
which in the Greek language meant simply â€œlilyâ€ â€” it is Susanna â€” â€œlilyâ€ â€”
who/which remains innocent and upright in her behaviour.